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URGENT ANNOUNCEMENT FROM NAMI GEORGIA

October 19, 2010 - Georgia and the Dept. of Justice Reach a Settlement!

NAMI-Georgia and NAMI-National have worked diligently with the Department of Justice during its investigation, informing Georgians regarding the ongoing investigation, and facilitating access to Department of Justice contact information for all citizens. Throughout this process, we have been impressed by the dedication and diligence of the Justice Department’s investigators, acting within the scope of their statutory authority. During the enforcement phase of this case, we plan to continue to assist the Department of Justice in its efforts to help Georgia improve its system of care.

The settlement that has been reached between the State of Georgia and the US Dept. of Justice is a good start. For adult mental health, the agreement targets 9000 of the most severely impacted individuals, focusing on people leaving the hospitals. This approach is consistent with NAMI Georgia's Opening Doors to Recovery Project just beginning in Region 5 (Coastal Georgia). While we are disappointed that family supports for people with a mental illness were removed from the settlement (DD still has family supports), we will support the settlement. Research from the Medical College of Georgia shows that people who have the positive support of their families have a FIVE FOLD DECREASE in re-hospitalization rates, and the settlement is all about keeping people out of the hospital.

The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities has developed proposed budgets for 2011 and 2012 which include increases to comply with the settlement agreement. With every other department in the state being asked to cut 6 - 12%, we will need to fight hard and long during the legislative session to support what is essentially a 12% INCREASE to the Dept.’s budget.

For more information, please visit http://www.namiga.org/DOJ where you can download a copy of the settlement agreement.



COPY OF PRESS RELEASE ISSUED BY THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, 10/19/2010

Department of Justice

Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Justice Department Obtains Comprehensive Agreement Regarding the State of Georgia’s Mental Health and Developmental Disability System

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department today announced that it has entered into a comprehensive settlement agreement that will transform the state of Georgia’s mental health and developmental disability system and resolve a lawsuit the United States brought against the state. The lawsuit alleged unlawful segregation of individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities in the state’s psychiatric hospitals in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Olmstead v. L.C.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia will retain jurisdiction to enforce today’s settlement agreement, which supersedes a 2008 agreement between the state and the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concerning Georgia’s provision of community services for individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities. In light of today’s agreement and the progress the state has made in complying with an earlier agreement regarding the conditions in the psychiatric hospitals, the United States has agreed to withdraw its motions to enforce that earlier agreement.

More than a decade ago, in Olmstead v. L.C., the Supreme Court found that one of Georgia’s state hospitals was impermissibly segregating two individuals with disabilities in that hospital when they could have been served in more integrated settings. The Supreme Court ordered states to serve individuals with disabilities in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs.

"The Olmstead decision strongly affirmed that people with disabilities have a right to live and receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate for them as individuals," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "Under this agreement, the state of Georgia will provide services in the community to hundreds of people with developmental disabilities and thousands of people with mental illness. The promises of the ADA and Olmstead will finally become a reality for individuals in Georgia with mental illness and developmental disabilities."

"Georgia is the home of the Supreme Court’s Olmstead decision," said Sally Quillian Yates, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. "With this agreement, the state begins to make good on Olmstead’s promise to end the inappropriate segregation of people with disabilities in state hospitals that set apart from the community."

"The expansion of community living opportunities is critical to protecting the civil rights of individuals with disabilities under Olmstead, said Georgina Verdugo, Director of the Office for Civil Rights at HHS. "The specific requirements and timelines in this agreement will ensure that Georgians with mental illness and developmental disabilities have the services they need to live full lives in the community and achieve their goals."

The Justice Department began its investigation in 2007, and found that preventable deaths, suicides and assaults occurred with alarming frequency in the state hospitals. In January 2009, the department entered into a settlement agreement with the state of Georgia regarding conditions in the hospitals. Further investigation found that the state also failed to serve individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs, in violation of the ADA and the Olmstead decision. In January 2010, the department filed a freestanding complaint under the ADA and a motion for immediate relief seeking to protect individuals confined in the hospitals from continued segregation and from threats of harm to their lives, health and safety. The department subsequently entered into extensive settlement negotiations with Georgia, the Office for Civil Rights and local mental health advocates.

The agreement signed today resolves the ADA lawsuit. The agreement expands community mental health services so that Georgia can serve individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities in the most integrated setting appropriate to those individuals’ needs. Under today’s agreement, over the next five years, Georgia will increase its assertive community treatment, intensive case management, case management, supported housing and supported employment programs to serve 9,000 individuals with mental illness in community settings. The agreement will also increase community crisis services to respond to and serve individuals in a mental health crisis without admission to a state hospital, including crisis services centers, crisis stabilization programs, mobile crisis and crisis apartments; create at least 1,000 Medicaid waivers to transition all individuals with developmental disabilities from the state hospitals to community settings; and increase crisis, respite, family and housing support services to serve individuals with developmental disabilities in community settings.

The Civil Rights Division enforces the ADA which authorizes the attorney general to investigate whether a state is serving individuals in the most integrated settings appropriate to their needs. Please visit www.justice.gov/crt to learn more about the Olmstead decision, the ADA and other laws enforced by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

The agreements in this case protecting the rights of individuals with mental illness and developmental disabilities in Georgia are due to the efforts of the following Special Litigation Section attorneys: Judy Preston, Acting Chief; Mary Bohan, Deputy Chief; Timothy Mygatt, Special Counsel; Robert Koch, Max Lapertosa, Richard Farano, Aaron Fleisher, Jeffrey Murray, Jennifer Mondino, David Deutsch, Emily Gunston, Samantha Trepel, and Amin Aminfar, Trial Attorneys. In addition, the division received support and assistance from Aileen Bell-Hughes and Mina Rhee, Assistant U.S. Attorneys for the Northern District of Georgia.

END OF PRESS RELEASE


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